The persistent and untiring efforts of Rev. Fr. Jojo Fung gave birth to the formation of the Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue (DCEIRD) now identified as the Ministry for Inter-religious Affairs (MIRA).

The inaugural meeting was held on the 16 March 2004 at the Majodi centre. The pioneer members were Dennis Lee, Richard and Rosemary Brockett, Christine Fernandez and Philip Packium.

The role and functions of the ministry were spelt out in the following manner:

  1. To deepen the understanding of our Catholic brethren on the Church’s mission concerning ecumenism.
  2. To promote ecumenical unity among the Christian churches in the diocese.
  3. Help in the formation of the Parish Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue (PEIRD).
  4. To network and organize activities with diocesan commissions of other dioceses. (KL & Penang)
  5. Liaise with the FABC Office of Ecumenism and Inter-religious Affairs.

Apart from helping to form the Parish Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue, (PEIRD), Rev. Fr. Jojo was also instrumental in creating district councils in all parishes in the north Johor district. These councils are directly accountable and come under the purview of the State MCCBCHST in Johor Bahru.

This is a unique set up in Peninsular Malaysia and currently operating only in the districts of Segamat, Muar, Kluang and Batu Pahat. You could call it a pilot project and it has had a positive impact in the districts concerned.

Since its inception, much water has flown under the DCEIRD’s bridge.

To begin with, membership has swelled. The ministry now boasts representation from all parishes from the North Johor district and Malacca. There are two reps from the South Johor district. The ministry is currently helmed by the indomitable Dennis Lee from Malacca who is readily recognized for his experience and knowledge in the interfaith ambit.

Sometime in February 2011 when Rev. Jojo was obliged to leave for Manila to take on a teaching post, Bishop Paul Tan SJ promptly appointed the young and dynamic Rev. Fr. Lionel as chaplain of the ministry.  Fr. Lionel accepted his superior’s directive with obvious trepidation but he rapidly learnt the ropes, and coupled with the humility and dynamism that is his hallmark, he has since led the ministry from strength to strength.

Although Fr. Lionel wears many hats in the diocese, it has not diminished his appetite to fortify the fragile inter-religious fabric. In the short time that he has been the spiritual director, he has established a brilliant bond of camaraderie among the many leaders of the different Faiths and has even created a niche of understanding, respect and solidarity among them. This is evident whenever the leaders come together for specific reasons. Clearly they resonate so fluidly with one another.

As for the members, they have spontaneously rallied around the sterling leadership of both Fr. Lionel and Dennis, and have surged forward, and through the myriad of programs they have made inroads in the grey areas of uncertainty, suspicion and that menacing spot of superiority that sometimes clouds over and rears its ugly impious head. 

World Aids Day Memorial Commemoration
Joint Sunday Service with Marlborough College at the Iskandar Region in Johor

Allow me to lay out the path that has been employed by the ministry in its efforts to engage both people of the pews and people of other Faiths.

  • Seminar on our stance vis-à-vis the general elections in 2008. A political scientist was invited to address the people.
  • Members organized a fund raising dinner and a raffles draw and realized a sum of RM14,500.
  • Varied assistance to flood victims.
  • Participation at all major religious festivals of other Faiths.
  • Assorted assistance for the marginalized & migrants.
  • Organized a blood donation campaign in collaboration with the MCCBCHST, JB.
  • Assisted in the food carnival organized by the Spastic Children’s Home, JB.
  • On a couple of occasions lawyers were invited to create awareness on the civil rights of citizens.
  • IRD Youth fellowship.
  • Periodic formation programs for members in the form of retreats/day of recollection.
  • Assisted in organizing a series of talks on the major religions in Malaysia.
  • Formation of a Youth wing of the EIRD.              
  • Annual celebration of the Diocesan Day of Inter-Religious Harmony, organized on a rotational basis by members from the different districts.
  • Annual celebration of the Day of Prayer for Unity and Peace.
  • Annual Christian Christmas fellowship.
  • Annual celebration of the Ponggal festival in different parishes, with invitations extended to the local Hindu community.
  • Currently the ministry is in the midst of organizing road shows in all parishes to create an awareness of our inter-religious responsibilities.

The Ministry of Inter-religious Affairs has been identified as a thorny and demanding ministry, and sadly one of the principal challenges continues to be, dispelling the latent religious contagion that so easily influences our own local community.

Members of the ministry appreciate this and are decidedly intent on a more robust involvement that will help build bridges of accord and cement frayed relationships.

Philip Packium

Bishop's Delegate/Head : Rev. Edward Rayappan
Assistant : Mr. Calvin Ohsey
Chairperson : Mr. Philip Packium
Vice-Chairperson : Mr. James Lee Say See
Secretary : Ms. Rupa Packium (Segamat)
Treasurer : Mr. Patrick Tan
Member : Mr. Johnson Gomez